May 2, 2018 / 12:54 AM / a year ago

Gabelli's new fund sees pets as pick of the litter for investors

(Reuters) - A potential new U.S. fund could help investors profit from their devotion to cats, dogs and other house pets.

The company run by investor Mario Gabelli is hatching plans to invest a forthcoming fund in “any” sector that “supports the well-being of pets and pet parents,” according to offering documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC on Tuesday approved a request by Nasdaq Inc that would let the exchange bring the “Gabelli Pet Parent Fund - Companion Pets, Their Parents, and The Ecosystems” to market quickly.

The proposed fund’s managers from the GAMCO Investors Inc Gabelli Funds unit will have wide latitude to invest in stocks of firms that make pharmaceuticals, toys and exercise equipment for four-legged animals, birds, fish and other critters.

Thomas Kwan, chief investment officer of Hong Kong-based Harvest Global Investments Ltd, told the Reuters Global Investment 2018 Outlook Summit last year that people in China, whose population is 1.4 billion, are taking care of pets better, and will buy more from companies making products such as pet food than they once did.

Some analysts think companies focused on the pet market could be poised to turn in stronger growth than their rivals as consumers spend more money on their animals, for instance trading up and buying higher-quality organic dog food.

That potential spurred two big acquisitions this year in the processed foods market with J. M. Smucker Co buying Rachael Ray Nutrish dog food maker Ainsworth Pet Nutrition for about $1.9 billion last month and Cheerios cereal maker General Mills Inc buying Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc for nearly $8 billion in February.

Overall, U.S. consumers spent $70 billion on pets in 2017, up four percent from the prior year, with additional increases expected in 2018, according to the American Pet Products Association Inc, a trade group.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jennifer Ablan

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